The Reunion Dinner 2018

”Twas the night before…”

Chinese New Year, and not only was there a squeak, there were many squeaks, and chatter, and laughs, and “huat ah!” happening in many Chinese Singaporeans households.

Well, it is, after all, the Reunion Dinner at the end of the Lunar Rooster Year. In 40 minutes’ time, the Rooster has to fly off and vacate its watch to the Dog. Reunion dinners traditionally brings the family together, and normally, the married sons and his family will join his parents for dinner. The married daughters and her family are encouraged to have their reunion dinners with their own parents on another day or earlier time.

This post is not supposed to be about the ancient story of how the 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals came to form up the Calendar, (you can actually find it on Wikipedia), but it is about what was on the table at my family’s dinner. Lol!

Yes, food, glorious food! We Singaporeans love to eat, and we live to eat. So, what better way to a good reunion than to have good food?

For just four of us, we had:

1. 十样汤 or Jap Hwa Teng 🍲 (Ten Items Soup) [pardon my *Minnanese],

2. Stir-fried Arrow Root with Prawns, sliced lean mean, and *Fat Choy (发菜 ‘Hair Vegetable’),

3. fried fish (we had Sea Bass) with stir fried *leek,

4. Stir fried Puay Leng (Chinese Sharp Spinach) with scallops, white Shimeji mushrooms, and black dried Chinese mushrooms,

5. Quarter of a roasted duck, and

6. Sliced canned *Abalone.

That actually is a lot of food! And yes, we have leftovers, which is good, as it signifies we will have extras for the new year.

In my opinion, there are a lot of Chinese practices that are more related to history than any other significances. Example, cooking more food, and rice, on the last dinner of the year so that there will be extras, or leftovers, for the new year. Like I mentioned, it’s supposed to mean that there will be (in hope of) extras in the new year, eg. extra wealth, extra good health, extra good fortune, etc. And these practices were pretty much made up by the common folk in each area of China. I’m quite sure S that some practices in the South can hardly be found being practiced by the folk in the North, and vice versa. It’s also the same as how over here in Singapore, I can have friends from the other Chinese groups eating different dishes as compared to mine. (By the way, I’m part Hokkien, Teochew, and Peranakan, so what food I have on my table is a little representation of these cultures.)

On the table, there are food mostly from Southern China, particularly from Hokkien and Teochew cultures. There are also some borrowed dishes from the Cantonese. (The Teochews are actually just next door to the Cantonese.) Peranakan culture borrowed cooking styles from the various Chinese groups, especially the Hokkiens, so there we have another cuisine borne of such cultural mixtures, which I am really quite happy for.

I’ll be at my Eldest Uncle’s home tomorrow for the great Lee family reunion. That will be another round of Food-spectacular for each of my mother’s siblings will be bringing a dish, from the spicy to non-spicy, from the complex to the simple. I can’t wait for the banquet!

6 more minutes till midnight…

*Minnanese, or Minnan language 闽南语: Southen Chinese languages evolved from lost Tang Dynasty language. Now includes Hokkien and Teochew languages.

*Fat Choy, or Hair Vegetable : a type of photosynthetic bacteria that is used as a vegetable in Chinese cuisine. When dried, the product has the appearance of black hair. For that reason, its name in Chinese means “hair vegetable.” And due to the sound of its name sounding like 发财, “grow rich”, it is cooked in dishes to signify abundant prosperity.

Happy Chinese New Year!!! 新年快乐🎊🎉🎆

*Leek: that long thick vegetable that looks like a Jedi light-saber to a child. Leek, 蒜, has the same sound as 算, /suan/ ‘counting’, so it is auspicious for the eater to always have money to count.

*Abalone 鲍鱼 /Bao yu/: has the same sound as 保余 ‘assurance of abundance in wealth’.

Yes, we Chinese eat lots of prosperous-sounding food.

Alright. I’m turning in now.

To you who are celebrating the Chinese New Year, wishing you good health, good wealth, and good life! To those who are not, it’s ok; I wish you the same. Huat ah!!!🎊

㊗️大家:新年快乐,身体健康,万事如意,年年有余,心想事成,大吉大利,合家平安。发啊!🎉

For more information about Chinese New Year foods: click here.

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Leprosy

Reflection: in today’s church readings, Jesus pitied a leper and cured him.

Leprosy in biblical times was not only a cause of concern in terms of health, but also in terms of spirituality. Leprosy could be any kind of skin diseases, including the real Leprosy itself. Because of its effects, that could be so hideous and the wound stinks, Lepers were the outcast of society. They had to live away from the main towns. They had to shield their upper lips and dressed in long cloths with messy hair, holding out a bell and cry out in a loud voice, “Unclean! Unclean!”, so that other ‘clean’ people would stay away from them.

Metaphorically, being a Leper is basically being an outcast of society. Sometimes, we can be mean to someone and just purposely not include someone in an activity or event. That is also a form of outcasting. I wonder, what if a person wants to be outcasted? Is that even possible?? If he/she chose to be like that, am I disrespecting his/her choice by wanting him/her to come back in???

My thought for this week is: have I outcasted anybody recently? What did I do to make it right with that someone? Have I been a Leper also? How did I deal with those feelings?

Life Goes On

On the last post, I was getting angry because of a certain person.

Well, I found out some more, realised that due to an upgrade in the Telegram system, posts more than 48 hours old can no longer be edited, and hence I panicked unnecessarily. Yes. My fault there.

And then there was that Choir practice. When we got together with our other friends for supper, I just couldn’t look at him. I was purposely ignoring him.

And I felt bad after that.

So, I waited till the next practice to apologise to him in person, for the texts I sent on New Year’s Day, and for ignoring him the last week.

His reaction was rather unresponsive. As I had expected.

I had prepared myself mentally that he would not response in a normal manner. So, yup. I was right about that. However, he did kept quiet when I apologised in the car. I shall just fantasised that he was shocked that I apologised, which should explained why he couldn’t respond. Ha ha ha. In truth, he, in my opinion, was a coward by using his job as an excuse for not dealing with the current situation.

I actually plucked up my courage to say sorry and he had that kind of response. I simply had no words.

Gosh, I need a new distraction…

2018 January Week 1

Please allow me to deviate from my usual Travel postings.

The first week of this year has already been a roller-coaster. I did lots of deep-breathing but it is not helping. I need to type this out in order to relieve the tightness in my chest.

I confessed to my crush early on 1st January. I told him not to reply me as “I am a coward at rejection”. He didn’t. In fact, when I went back to edit my text, due to some spelling errors I realised later on, I couldn’t. On Telegram, which is another communications app, one can edit one’s text after sending it. That edited text will appear with ‘edited’ on it. In this case, I couldn’t even edit it. I knew he saw the texts due to the two blue ticks on it. There was one conclusion I could think off: he deleted all of our conversation. And that hurts a lot.

I am alright if he doesn’t see me as a romantic interest but to the extend of not even seeing me as a Friend??? That actually cuts me most. So, the time we spent as friends means nothing to him??? All the laughs, the jokes, the discussions, all of these are nothing??? Like, really???

I am quite angry about this. Not so much as hurt. And also in disbelief.

Maybe it is also my fault for telling him both his good points AND bad. I pointed out what I liked about him and what I don’t. He most likely didn’t agree with what I said. If he was mad about that and then deleted me from his contact list, then I am calling him a coward for not facing his faults, or even facing me. Maybe he didn’t like to be reminded of his faults.

I asked my Counsellor-friend for his advice. He said to give this guy some time, “maybe he’s feeling confused, and if he doesn’t show up for choir practice (this Friday), then you can write him off.” We attend the same choir, by the way.

I thought of starting the year right by stepping out of my comfort zone and be more courageous with my feelings. Well, because of that New Year’s resolution, I am facing this. On hindsight, this experience with this ‘friend’ may be a blessing in disguise. This experience has definitely opened my eyes to his true colours. It isn’t that I am totally, head-over-heels in love with him. It is just a crush. So, why did he do what he did? I really don’t know what he is thinking.

He is that kind of person who keeps his true feelings to himself. To the world, he appears to be mysterious, always wearing a mask. To his friends, he does the same, and that annoys us quite a bit. We want to help him with whatever problems he has but he isn’t allowing us to.

I suspect he has depression. I know he drinks, and he is a heavy drinker. He doesn’t smoke, and that is good. He plays computer games and such, when he isn’t cycling around the country. And with the wet weather we are having, I think that he is still not well since November. And no, I do not stalk him. All these are gathered from observations. When we have some group meetups or gatherings, or even meals at each other’s homes, he turns up, after a long absence on our chat group. So, we are quite worried about him.

I feel sad for him. I know some of his background, and we are trying to help him, but he is pushing us away, hiding behind his mask. Is that a roundabout way for help?

I am so confused now.

I shall wait for tomorrow evening. If he turns up, and if he doesn’t turn tail when I want to talk to him, I am going to ask him two questions, “Is there anything you want to tell me?” and “Am I your friend?”. If both answers are ‘No’, then I shall wish him the very best for the rest of his life. Because he needs it. But if his answers are ‘Yes’, then I will try my best to help him along, that is if he wants the help.

He is too bloody proud to ask for help, always hiding, running away, sweeping his problems under the carpet, and pushing people away.

UK 🇬🇧: 7-20 June 2017 (Days 1 & 2)

During the June vacation, or more specifically 7-20 June, the family and I went to the UK for a trip. 

How was it? It was filled with lots of ‘first experiences’. Can’t deny that it was fascinating, interesting, rewarding, and also frustrating sometimes.

Main characters: Myself, Mum, Aunty, Uncle.

Day 1: Arrived in Heathrow Airport at 8am. After some dilly-dallying, like complaining to Thai Airways about the horrible state of our luggage and getting a report from them at the luggage collection area, we finally got our rental car from Hertz. Our luggage was unfortunately damaged. Sigh… The sky over Heathrow didn’t look too cheery, but it got better as we drove eastwards.

First stop: Cambridge. Beautiful clear blue sky! 🎉 

Only irritation was that there were many young people touting for business from the tourists. Which we avoided.

Had the famous Chelsea Sticky Bun from Fitzbillies. It is really sticky, and sweet!, because of the sugar syrup.



It was a lovely university town, with much to see but our time there was short. We still had to drive to our accommodation.

We stayed in a little town called Stamford. There is a lovely B&B there, run by a lovely and capable couple; Borderville Farm B&B. And it was the first of our many “the family room is at the top of the stairs”. 😅

Our room was spacious and it had a lovely view out of the window. Only downside was that if we weren’t careful, we would bump our heads against the roof beams. Breakfast is at a supplementary of £6.50 per person. Do let the owners know the night before.


We went in to town for our dinner. There were a number of eateries available for the evening. We finally settled at a pub, The London Inn, as the pricing was really inexpensive: 2 mains for only £10! I forgot how big the portions were, and the amount of potatoes served. We couldn’t finish all of it! And we didn’t even order any beer. 



And that was Day 1.

Day 2: Burghley House & Leicester

After a good breakfast, we checked out and moved on. Good bye, Stamford!


First stop: Burghley House. We only stopped for photos of the stately mansion and its accompanying lands as we had quite a journey to go.


Next stop was more of a Literature and History trip instead. 😂 

We went to Leicester, the final resting place of Richard III. I got to thank Shakespeare for the play of the same name or else I wouldn’t have planned a stop there. 

I remember reading a few years ago in the news that researchers had found his body in a carpark. Now that we were going to that part of the UK, why not stop there? So, I dragged my poor old folks to the Richard III Centre with me, where I learnt a lot more than expected. The centre was put together really well. It was not only a museum, but also an exhibition and learning place about a certain part English history and also about archeology and forensics.

Oh yes. Richard III was finally laid to rest In Leicester Cathedral, which is just opposite the centre. No photos allowed at his grave in the Cathedral. 

The garden in front of the cathedral may present a spooky front but it’s not that bad. The graves had been exhumed and relocated by the church, leaving behind the really old gravestones. It’s sort of meditative and calming in this sort of replanning.




Richard III’s face reconstructed. His real image is not that far off from his portrait.

The grave he was found in was hurriedly dug, such that it was actually smaller than his actual height, such that he was laid with his head propped against a side of the grave’s wall.


After that, it was straight for Robin Hood’s Nottingham. By the time we got there, the castle was already closed for the day, so we had a short walk around, looking at the caves located below the castle, and having a closer look of the Robin Hood statue.


Sadly, we didn’t have enough time for Sherwood Forest. I hope to visit the Great Oak Tree one day.

We found dinner in, of all places, the supermarket near our lodgings at Harley’s Inn. My burger wasn’t too bad, compared to the veg and salmon. Oh well, we can’t be picky about it. 


End of Day 2.

Bangkok, Thailand: 15-18 March 2017

Update: a/o 21 May 2017. Bangkok will be cleaning up its streets, including its street vendors. There goes my street food!!! Only certain tourist spots, like Yaowarat, will be retained. Read it here: Bangkok Clean up

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Trying out a new format to my headings. I get confused over my own headings so I best try out a more effective one. LOL 

Okay. So…

It was the March school term break here in Singapore. For the other parts of the world, this is something like your Easter holidays except that we all know that Easter is in April this year. We work on a 10-week term for the primary and secondary schools. Junior Colleges are slightly different and Polytechnics are totally on their own.

Anyway, with my colleagues-friends, J and T, we were off to the Land of a Thousand Smiles for a short stay of only four days. 

We took the Airport MRT to the city from the airport. It was quite convenient. Got to thank J who helped us get the transport card, Rabbit (yeah, the animal 🐰) Card, by standing in line (it was quite a line!). (After traveling by the local metro system, I realised that it’s about a dollar odd for each trip. Not too bad except for the crowdedness. You might get squashed in the process.) 

From the metro station, we walked about 10+mins to our hotel in Pratunam in the hot midday sun ☀️ . Centre Point Pratunam is centrally located, near the clothing and shopping areas of Pratunam itself. It’s about a stone’s throw away from Baiyoke. Our room for two can easily fit us three, and with space to spare. 

It’s easy to get food all around the area. There’s even a 7-11 Convenience Store just outside the side door of the hotel, along the main road. If you don’t mind street food, then you will find many street food carts along the way, especially in the smaller lanes.

Hot hot day!

Our room for 3! 2 double beds to roll on. 

Skewered barbecued pork at 10 Baht (approx. 50cents SGD) freshly made and cooked.

We took a walk around the area. J wanted to do some clothes shopping so we went to Platinum Mall, which is down and across the road from the hotel. There is a food court on the TOP floor. Get a cash card from the main counter, buy your food from the stalls, and if there is any balance, you can get your refund.

Mango sticky rice!!! Our main snack of the day.

With the sun down and being hungry, we managed to find a Halal Thai Restaurant just on the other corner from the hotel. Total bill, including two bowls of plain rice 🍚 and a bottle of water, it came to about 300baht (approx. SGD12). Happy tummies, happy pockets, happy people! 😊 

Green curry with chicken and round brinjal, plain omelette, fried kangkong (water-spinach/空心菜).

After dinner, we went to take a look at the night markets. There are quite a few in Pratunam and Baiyoke area. In fact, there are quite a number of these night markets in Bangkok itself. The famous one, ArtBox, had already packed up in preparation for the temporary move to Singapore. Singaporeans couldn’t wait for the favourite night market to arrive. 

The second day. 

We made a trip into crazy Yaowarat or also known as Chinatown. Looking at those signboards suddenly reminded me of Hongkong. Street food is plentiful, so don’t worry too much if you’re going to starve. From our hotel to Chinatown, it cost us 80baht by metered taxi. 

Our Friend, C, told us about a wholesale market there in Chinatown, called Sampeng Market. We finally found it in the midst of lanes and alleyways, and packed home loads of stationary for our students. Haha!!! That’s what Teachers buy when you bring them to a wholesale stationary place. Just make sure to find out about the wholesale prices in the shops you go to. 

The trip back to Pratunam was difficult as many taxi drivers refused to take us unless we fork out 200baht instead. Their reluctance was mainly because it was the evening peak period. We finally got one but the road back was on the side of being hair raising. We paid him 100baht for the trip. 

J and I had dinner together because T went for a massage appointment at upmarket Novotel Hotel. There are many little restaurants in the Baiyoke area. These places are housed indoors and not on the streets, but if you want to have an outdoor experience, it is always available.

What really marvels me is that the Drivers in Bangkok are really patient. They don’t sound their horns when there are pedestrians on the road, instead, they will slowly inch their way through, and hope that pedestrians will be more road-aware.

Oh yes! Try their local milk tea from the street vendors. Also, do take note of the cute packing for the takeaway packets.

Third day involves a trip to the supermarket, again. We found a link ridge from Pratunam to Big C supermarket. It also links to Central World, where we got our Shibuya Toast fix at After You Cafe. Thank God for smartphone maps! Or else we would had walked all the way to Siam Paragon, which is really far from where we were.

In the evening, we took the MRT and headed for JJ Green, another night market. It is located where Chatuchak market is, just next door only, but opened in the evenings. Quite crowded, so for the claustrophobic ones, avoid this area. There are many stalls selling vintage items, clothes, handicrafts, food and drinks, and there is even a stage with a live band. After a whole day out in the hot sun, I was ready to call it a day, or night. Whichever.


Last day in Bangkok and we went back to the same area as last night, but this time, we went to the one and only Chatuchak Weekend Market, where hundreds of stalls operate, where tourists flocked to but locals shunned. 😂 

PETA and other Wildlife agencies will be up in arms with what is being sold at this market. But first, food. 

Lots of food to feed the masses, and I found the best crispy pork   (Siew yok/燒肉) ever. And paired it with homemade sour chili sauce, it was just awesome! Writing about it now makes me salivate. 😆 It is a little on the expensive price for street food, 150 baht (S$6) for 100g, but it was worth it, and I relished every single bite.


Alright then. Time to head back to the hotel, get our luggage, do some last minute packing, and get on the taxi for the airport. I initially wanted to have a foot massage but due to the time constraint, I’ll have to postpone it to the next trip to BKK. We three were quite sure our feet were tanner than when we left. Haha! 

Good bye, Bangkok! See you the next time!

18 Dec. 2016 – Day 15: Singapore

Good bye, Melbourne, and Tasmania! And thank you for all the sights and experiences during the past two weeks!

Got the StarBus hotel shuttle to the airport. Really convenient.

Unfortunately at the airport, there was not only a long queue at the check-in counters, our luggage was over the scales so we had to do some last-minute repacking, and finally, our flight was delayed by almost an hour.

So… hmmm…

Our plane flew over the desert areas of Australia and for a moment, it looked like those images we had seen of Mars. Alien landscape, in all sense of the word.

Anyway, we finally got home alright on Scoot, surviving 7 hours of dozing and reading.

What an experience.

hahaha! 😀

Alien landscape

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Leaving AustraliaIMG_2202

WELCOME HOME.IMG_2203

17 Dec. 2016 – Day 14: Melbourne

The last day of my time in Australia before I have to leave and return to work.

AHHHH…. 😦

It was a lovely Saturday for a trip to the Queen Victoria Market. Lots of bustle and lots to see. The day was exceptionally bright, such that all the colours seem to pop out on my photos. I finally got round to having that bowl of white wine mussels. Really tasty and fresh! We even had a plate of little Dutch Pancakes. So pretty.

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Took the tram down to the the Bourke Street mall area. Musicians playing in front of H&M store.

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Went to the Royal and Block Arcades to marvel at the architecture, and discovered Hopetoun Tearooms at the Block Arcade. A pity we were too full from our lunch at the market or else could had gone in to have tea.

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What else? Went for the Saturday Sunset Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Really lovely inside the grand building. Pretty flowers growing on the grounds of the cathedral.

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Apple blossoms?

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My last dinner in Melbourne was at Moo Moo Pho. Really tasted just as good as eating in Vietnam, only thing was that the beef was juicier than others.

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Well then, good night and good bye, Melbourne! Thanks for giving me great weather on my last day here!

Till the next time, stay well!

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16 Dec. 2016 – Day 13: Launceston to Melbourne

Our last day in Tasmania.

We took a last drive around Launceston, finally visiting the church we saw while driving a day or two ago. It’s the Church of the Apostles (RC), built in 1864, but its slender spire was not built till a century later (bad photo, can’t get the spire here).

Had a super short visit to Cateract Gorge, which is about 1km behind the church, up on a hill. It is a lovely place that requires more than just 15mins to appreciate. That was how long we stayed before leaving for the airport.


The drive to the airport was incredibly short, even to the petrol station nearest to the airport. We had to top up the tank to the brim before returning the car. We made good time and even had some time to browse at the shops before our departure.

Tasmania is a really beautiful island. It has the cleanest air, by far. If I have maybe another 3 days, I would had covered the Huon Valley, and that would complete my tour of the island.

Thank you, Tasmania, for being such a wonderful and beautiful island, and for giving me such an incredible experience of driving auto-gear up and down the slopes and sides of hills. I shall take the experience of such a drive when I tackle my next road trip.

😉
~~ Back to Melbourne, where the temperature was steadily climbing.

Got our hotel shuttle via StarBus from the airport and checked into Hotel Sophia on King Street. Since we still had time, I brought the Aunt and Uncle using the free Circle Tram, near Southern Cross Station. The variety of food at the food court there was rather bleah. 😞
We had a joy ride, before finally getting off at the stop near Parliament. They wanted to find out where we can go for Sunday Mass so I brought them to St. Patrick’s Cathedral ☘️ behind Parliament Gardens.

We called it a night after taking the tram back to Elizabeth Street/Bourke Street and changing to another tram, and a short walk later, bringing up back to the hotel.

Zzzzzz… 😴

 

15 Dec. 2016 – Day 12: Low Head & Georgetown

I fell in love…

With a beach. 

❤️🏖❤️🏝❤️

Think I left a part of my soul there.

Nothing to do with Horcruxes though. 

But, yeah. The beach is super lovely. 

See the photos for yourself.


But before we got there, we drove north from Launceston to a little village called Grindelwald (nothing to do with that dark wizard). One of the owners there was so taken with the actual Grindelwald village in Switzerland that he some-what modeled this place after it. 

 

We made a little stop as we crossed Batman Bridge at the River Tamar. 

Proceeded to Georgetown. Wanted to have tea at this place but when we got there, it has already closed for some time. Even reviewers on Google maps said the same. Oh well. Anyway, the pavements there have little sea-related mosaic murals embedded. So cute! 


After a lunch of pies and hot coffee, we went on to Low Head, just a very short drive further north of Georgetown. We visited the historic lighthouse. There are several in the area so do check your map for the correct one. 

Not this one. Further up the road.


Look out for this sign. This lighthouse is really facing the sea.


The lighthouse-keeper shared that there is a penguin colony on the land facing the sea. They will come in to nest among the low bushes in the evening. That explains the little feathers and bird poop at the base of those bushes.


And then, as we were driving back to Georgetown, we came across this lovely, lovely beach. The waters are so clear and the colours of the sky reflected on them. Sigh… I left my heart there. ❤️


How to get there? It’s a secret 😉. Find it yourself when you are in Low Head the next time. 😝